Mullein

Verbascum thapsus

Common Name: mullein, velvet plant, figwort, Jupiter’s staff, blanket herb
 
Family: Scrophulariaceae
TCM Name: Jia Yan Ye
Ayurvedic Name: N/A
Parts Used: root, leaf, flower, flower stalk resin
Native To: Native to Europe and North Africa, naturalised in North America

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Medicinal Notes

Lyte (The Niewe Herball, 1578) tells us ‘that the whole toppe, with its pleasant yellow floures sheweth like to a wax candle or taper cunningly wrought.’

Our family has a lot of personal experience with mullein. It is one of our Great Eight here in South Bohemia. I love harvesting its first year leaves, using them in teas for respiratory illness, crushing them up into soothing poultices for wounds and relying on them to calm my cough, ease the pain and make it productive.  Gathering its delicate flowers takes days. Once the stalk is flowering, one must gather daily to capture the flowers at the perfect state, which is as a partially closed bud. Beware, though, as these flowers are small hotel rooms for a myriad of insects and I have surprised many in my gathering. The flowers are set up in oil and are pretty darn near flawless in their assistance with earaches and ear infections. My husband had a painful ear infection a couple of weeks back, the kind with a shooting pain that would render him near speechless; he applied the oil to his ear canal two times a day for 20 minutes or so and felt dramatic improvement in a couple of days.

There is something really special about standing in front of a mullein spike mid-summer, gently coaxing insects out of the flowers cum hidey-holes, popping the popcorn like buds from their sockets, knowing that tomorrow you will be back for more.

Mullein is a beautiful biennial. The first year the plant grows a rosette of leaves that are 6 to 8 inches long and covered with fuzzy hairs which make them feel thick and soft to the touch. The second year of growth it sends up a stalk that is 4 to 5 feet tall. The leaves grow alternately up the stalk and get smaller as they near the top. A spike of flowers grows on the top. The sulphur-yellow flowers, nearly an inch across, are formed of four or five petals that unite at the base to form a short tube.

According to herbalist Richard Whelan:

“Mullein was described as a treatment for ‘old coughs’ by the Greek physician Dioscorides over 2000 years ago and has chiefly been used as a herb for lung problems since well before then till now.

Ancient cultures around the world considered Mullein a magical protector against witchcraft and evil spirits and like many such herbs used in magic Mullein has a long history as a healing plant. The botanical family name for Mullein; Schrophulariaceae is derived from scrofula, an old term for chronically swollen lymph glands, later identified as a form of tuberculosis.”

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Photo credit: Floral Encounters

 

Harvesting

Mullein leaves are best harvested in the summer of the second year as the plant is growing its stalk. Bundle and hang the leaves upside down to dry. Harvest the buds and flowers when in bloom (Usually between July and September) and use them fresh or dried. Roots can be gathered before the stalk grows, sliced and dried.

Watch one of my herbal heroes, Susun Weed harvest mullein here.

Constituents

Mullein contains rotenone, mucilage, gum, saponins, essential oils, flavonoids, glycosides.

Uses

Internally, as a tea, infusion, or tincture:

For digestion, mullein soothes the gut, eases peptic ulcers and curbs diarrhea.

Mullein is a heavy hitter with the immune system. As a soothing expectorant, it gently calms and moistens dry, hacking coughs, sore throats as well as more intense inflammatory conditions such as pharyngitis, tracheitis and bronchitis. It is antiseptic and relaxing; quite effective for colds, flu and chest infections. As a decongestant it clears phlegm, sinusitis and hay fever.

Mullein enhances the immune system. With an anti-inflammatory action, it aids in  relieving the pain of swollen glands and mumps. It is useful against influenza strains and herpes simplex because of its antibacterial and antiviral actions.

It is often used as a remedy for urinary system complaints. Mullein acts as a soothing diuretic for burning and frequency of cystitis and fluid retention. It increases the elimination of toxins, while being useful for arthritis, rheumatism and gout.

Externally, mullein is used as a healing salve or poultice for wounds, burns, sores, ulcers and piles. A compress of leaves can be used for painful and swollen joints, sore muscles, asthma, headaches, and swollen glands. The topical application of mullein flowers or flower oil speeds healing of ringworm and other skin infections. Mullein flower oil is used as an effective remedy against earaches and ear infections.

According to herbalist jim mcdonald:

“The leaves are the most commonly used part of the plant, and among the first remedies to be thought of in treating congestion and dry coughs, as they are an excellent expectorant. An expectorant aids the lungs in expelling mucous and phlegm by loosening it from the walls of the lungs and allowing it to be coughed up; thus, Mullein will stimulate coughing, even though that’s the symptom being treated. What Mullein is really doing is assisting the body’s natural response to congestion – coughing – to be more effective.”

 

According to herbalist Kiva Rose:

If there’s one thing Mullein is famous for, it’s as an oil for ear infections. The warm oil is useful where wax is causing a blockage and/or pooling of moisture but in general, I prefer the flower tincture for most infections, as it adds the drying action that helps to speed healing form most bacterial infections. Additionally, I find Mullein flower to be much more effective in the treatment of chronic ear infections when combined with Elderberry tincture. Be aware that if there is any chance of a ruptured ear drum, nothing at all should be placed in the ear and immediate medical attention should be sought. Also, if chronic ear infections persist with herbal treatment, a dairy intolerance should be considered and/or probiotic therapy in the form of fermented foods or supplementation.

Protocol
Ways to Use: Tincture, Infusion, Infused Oil, Tea, Poultice, Inhalation
Actions: Expectorant, astringent, vulnerary, sedative, demulcent, decongestant, anodyne, antispasmodic, anti-viral, mild diuretic, anti-inflammatory
Taste: salty, bland, vanilla
Energy: Root: neutral, sl. drying. Leaf: cool, sl. moistening. Flower: cool, neutral
Dosing
Adult Dose

 Tincture: 1-4 ml (1:5 in 60%) 3x per day.

Tea: 1-2 teaspoons dried leaf per cup boiling water, steeped for 10-15 minutes, taken three times per day.

External applications: poultice, salve, or wash as needed.

 

Safety

Mullein is considered a very safe herb. One should be cautious about interacting too intimately with the fuzzy little hairs on the leaves as they can cause contact dermatitis.

 

Veins Away Salve: The Sequel

Something that I wanted to create for a few of my clients is a salve that helps with varicose veins and spider veins. A tonifying salve that would lessen the appearance of veins, tonify tissues and relieve pain was the goal. This is the sequel to my Veins Away Salve.

Varicose veins are a result of a lax tissue state and require astringents to tone up tissues thus tightening and shoring up the tissues (in this case, valves) enabling them to function normally.

Why create two salves for the same problem? As discussed in an earlier post, it is part of an herbalist’s job not just to understand plants and their medicinal actions, but to understand the client and what herb is best suited for them. I created these salves in the hopes that one would be able to find the right blend of herbs that would work with their individual composition.

Today’s recipe uses different herbs than Veins Away, yet with similar actions in order to tonify tissues, reduce swelling and relieve pain.

Veins Away II

  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) White Willow Bark-infused olive oil
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) Horse Chestnut-infused olive oil
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) Hyssop-infused olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (60 g) beeswax
  • 15 drops each: geranium and frankincense essential oils

In a double boiler (or a pot nestled in a larger pot filled with a bit of water) over medium heat, add the oils and beeswax. 

Stir until the beeswax melts and is fully incorporated.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a moment.

Add the essential oils. Stir.

Pour into clean and sterilised jars.

Medicinal Actions:

White Willow Bark (Salix alba): analgesic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, tonic, diuretic, anodyne

Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum): astringent, anti-inflammatory, aescin contained strengthens blood vessel walls and enhances their elasticity, contracts blood vessels when used topically

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis): diaphoretic, diuretic, astringent, circulatory stimulant, vasodilator

Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens): anti-inflammatory, analgesic, contracts arteries and veins, astringent, tonic

Frankincense (Boswellia serrata): anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antispasmodic

Want to buy it directly from me? Shop here.

Herbal How To: Making a Face Cream

Today I’m making a special order for a client. She requested a face cream with an SPF. I am adapting my Calendula Face Cream to have some sunscreen properties by adding St John’s Wort-infused almond oil.

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1. Gather your supplies: infused oils, essential oil, shea butter, coconut oil, rose hydrosol, vitamin E, sauce pan, blender, measuring cups


2. Add together 1/2 cup calendula-infused almond oil, 1/4 plus 1/8 cup St John’s Wort-infused almond oil, 1/8 cup Balm of Gilead-infused almond oil in a double boiler on low heat


3. Add in 1/8 c shea butter
4. Add in 1/8 c coconut oil
5. Add in 1/8 c beeswax

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6. Once the oils, wax and butters are incorporated, put them in a heat-proof container to cool until slightly solidified

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7. Add together 1/4 c aloe vera gel

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8. Add in 3/4 c rose hydrosol

9. Add in 10-15 drops vitamin E oil

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10. Add in 25 drops lavender essential oil

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11. Stir waters together

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12. Put cooled oils into blender

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13. Start blender on high until the oils create a vortex
14. Pour waters into vortex

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15. Blend until mixture ‘chokes’

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16. Scrape cream into a container

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17. Label and refrigerate

Veins Away Salve

Varicose veins are caused by the dilation and enlargement of veins (known as haemorrhoids when present in the anus). They are often hereditary (thanks, mum) and can also be caused by stagnation of the blood in the veins, aggravated by too much standing, pressure points during pregnancy (thanks, Roxie), not enough exercise, constipation, obesity, shallow breathing and stress.

Varicose veins can be very painful and are often treated with surgery. Dietary changes, exercise and some herbal remedies would be a great first step.

Something that I wanted to create for a few of my clients is a salve that helps with varicose veins and spider veins. A tonifying salve that would lessen the appearance of veins, tonify tissues and relieve pain was the goal. This was the first salve that I created.

It went through a couple of iterations as my processing method improved and as I understood the ratios a bit better.

Varicose veins are a result of a lax tissue state and require astringents to tone up tissues thus tightening and shoring up the tissues (in this case, valves) enabling them to function normally.

According to Kiva Rose:

“Here we are looking for herbs that give tone and help the tissues to hold their form and function efficiently. To tone is to tighten and pull together, thus lessening the permeability of the tissues. Astringents fit the bill perfectly here as they cause the contraction of tissue they come in contact with, and as such help prevent loss of fluids while assisting the organism in proper function wherever there is excessive relaxation/laxity.”

An herbal protocol may consist of applying fresh comfrey poultices, soaking legs or affected areas in a comfrey/calendula tea bath and adding Vitamins E, C and honey to the diet.

Applying this salve daily directly to the varicose or spider veins may help to tone the tissues thus decreasing the varicose veins, it may also help to relieve some of the accompanying pain or discomfort.

Veins Away Salve

  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) Yarrow-infused olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) Comfrey-infused olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (60 g) beeswax
  • 15 drops each: clary sage, frankincense and cedar essential oils

In a double boiler (or a pot nestled in a larger pot filled with a bit of water) over medium heat, add the oils and beeswax. 

Stir until the beeswax melts and is fully incorporated.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a moment.

Add the essential oils. Stir.

Pour into clean and sterilised jars.

Medicinal Actions:

Yarrow: astringent, diuretic, vulnerary, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, alterative

Comfrey: analgesic, anti-inflammatory, vulnerary, demulcent, astringent, alterative

Clary Sage: anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, astringent

Frankincense: anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antispasmodic

Cedar: astringent, sedative, diuretic

Want to buy it directly from me? Shop here.

Tea To The Rescue: Update

Roxie’s migraine really started about two weeks ago and varies in intensity during the day. The last three days she has been on Roxie’s Migraine Tea and it seems to be helping. She drinks about 4-5 cups a day of the blend and a straight Self-heal tea during acute migraines.

We will keep working with this blend. It seems to be doing the trick for now.

Tea To The Rescue

Today’s weather caused my daughter to have a migraine. Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), our go-to herb for migraines and headaches, doesn’t work for my youngest. Matching herbs to people is an art as well as a science. After today’s research for a post about Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris), it seems uniquely indicated for her particular type of migraine. I picked her a special migraine tea from our garden.

Roxie’s Migraine Tea

– 1 part Self-heal
– 1 part Lemon balm
– 1/2 part Mint
– 1/2 part Calendula

Medicinal Actions:

Self-heal: Tonic, relaxant, restorative, diuretic, digestive, antioxidant, astringent, hemostatic, hypotensive, anti-inflammatory and vulnerary

Lemon balm: Diaphoretic, nervine, antispasmodic, sedative, decongestant, antihistamine

Mint: Nervine, antispasmodic, antiemetic, analgesic

Calendula: Vulnerary, anti-inflammatory,  immune stimulant, , antiviral,  diaphoretic, lymphatic, antispasmodic

 

Happy Summer Days!

My husband has mowed a smiley face into our grass for a decade now. At first, the neighbours thought we were nuts. I’m pretty sure they chalked it up to us being the crazy foreigners. Now, I think the smiley brings everyone a bit of summer joy!
This year’s smiley has started growing Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris).